- Publication date
Dark Castle is a 1986 computer game for the Macintosh published by Silicon Beach Software, later ported to various platforms, where it was published by Three-Sixty Pacific. It was designed and illustrated by Mark Pierce and programmed by Jonathan Gay.
Dark Castle is a platform game where a young hero named Duncan tries to make his way to the evil Black Knight, dodging objects as well as solving occasional puzzles. The game is notable for its use of sampled sounds to great effect. A sequel titled Beyond Dark Castle was released in 1987. A second sequel, Return to Dark Castle, was announced in 2000, though it was not released until March 14, 2008.
Mark Pierce was based in San Francisco with his own company MacroMind, while Jon Gay and the rest of the Silicon Beach team were in San Diego; so after an initial launch meeting, most of the collaboration between Pierce and Gay was handled remotely. Pierce designed the animations in MacroMind's "VideoWorks" (the direct ancestor of Adobe Director) and then mailed the files on floppies to Gay, who then coded the game in 68000 Assembly Language on an Apple Lisa (a few parts like the high-score system were written in Pascal). The digitized sound was created by Eric Zocher who worked with voice actor Dick Noel.
The game opens with a vista of the castle with storm clouds in the distance. The opening notes of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor play and are followed by thunderclaps. The title along with the programming and development credits are shown on this screen.
Movement within Dark Castle is typical for most platformers. Duncan can run, jump and duck, and can throw a limited supply of rocks at his enemies. More rocks can be found in little bags along the way, as well as bottles of an elixir that provide a one-time antidote to bites of the numerous rats and bats found around the castle.
To defeat the Black Knight, Duncan needs to pull several levers which topple him from his throne. To aid Duncan, a magic shield and the power to hurl fireballs can, fortunately, be found within the Dark Castle. The game begins in the Great Hall, where the player can choose from four doors. The large center door leads to the Black Knight. One other is marked with the shield, and the remaining two mysteriously alternate between the fireball course and a more troubling path. The game can be played at three different skill levels, the hardest "Advanced" level containing more enemies and a few extra surprises.
Computer Gaming World stated that Dark Castle was "the best arcade game I've seen for the Macintosh, and perhaps the best I've seen on any microcomputer, ever". The reviewer praised the sound and graphics, stating that he did not know that the Macintosh was capable of animations of such quality. He concluded that Dark Castle "is filled with lots of little touches that show it's one of the first steps toward what Silicon Beach likes to call 'interactive cartoons'." BYTE compared the game to Lode Runner, writing "There's nothing new about the basic concept, but the execution is impressive". The magazine praised its "slick animation and realistic digitized sound", and concluded that it "is a perfect way to fritter away those long winter evenings when you should be doing something productive". Compute! praised the Amiga version's "brilliant graphics, sound, and atmosphere" but criticized the keyboard/mouse control system and gameplay as too difficult. The reviewer also disliked the disk-based copy protection which caused him to fear damage to the disk drives, crashes when loading the game, and slow level loading.
Jon Gay has credited Dark Castle with helping to establish the reputation of Silicon Beach Software and with paying his way through college.
Game reviewers Hartley and Pattie Lesser complimented the game in their "The Role of Computers" column in Dragon #122 (1987), calling it "the finest arcade/adventure game ever designed for the Macintosh computer — as a matter of fact, for any computer!" and stating, "The graphics and animation are quite literally stunning!". In a subsequent column, the reviewers gave the game 4 out of 5 stars.
Silicon Beach Software, Inc.
Amiga, Apple IIgs, Atari ST, CD-i, Commodore 64, DOS, Genesis, Macintosh
Silicon Beach Software, Inc.
The Black Knight has brought misery to the land, and the end way to end this is to enter his haunted house to slay him. You are the brave adventurer taking on this quest through 14 increasingly-tough zones.
The bulk of the game is side-viewed, involving single screens to pass through, which incorporate ropes, cages and trapdoor. There are enemies walking, flying and hovering through this, and many of them respawn. Unusually your weapon to take them on (rocks) can be thrown through 360 degrees, which aims to make the gameplay more realistic and methodical. The screens were linked by hub screens, which the player passes through simply by clicking on a door.
From Mobygames.com. Original Entry
- Silicon Beach Software, Inc.
- Amiga, Apple IIgs, Atari ST, CD-i, Commodore 64, DOS, Genesis, Macintosh
- Silicon Beach Software, Inc.
- Internet Archive Python library 1.4.0
Subject: Too Laggy for Microsoft
The game is fun and playable, however, on a Mac. And if you're using Safari.
Subject: Wish this had the original controls
Subject: Great game. Very fun
Subject: Great game, sketchy emulation
After a few tests I determined the trouble with the laggy controls is actually only a problem in the Windows OS. This plays good enough on Mac using Safari, but really is unplayable in Windows.
If you're using Windows I suggest setting up the Mini vMac emulator to play these early Mac games.
Subject: bad game or bad emulator?
Subject: So fun, but not playable
Subject: awesome, but
Unfortunately the emulator is a bit too slow to allow real play. Though I humbly consider myself a Dark Castle expert, I can't control it well enough to achieve much of anything. The controls are high latency and often unresponsive.
Nonetheless, thanks for putting this out there. Great to show the kids.
Subject: Tips for getting started
Controls are WASD for movement, mouse for aiming and throwing rocks, space for jump and Q to pick things up or operate levers. E makes you duck. There are three types of jump - normal, running and downward, and you need all of them to beat the game.
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